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Union minister Muraleedharan to attend Sri Lanka's Independence Day celebrations


Published on: February 3, 2023 | Updated on: February 3, 2023

 Minister of state for external affairs V Muraleedharan   PTI

Colombo: State Minister for External Affairs V Muraleedharan will represent India at Sri Lanka's 75th Independence Day celebrations to be held here on Saturday and hold bilateral interactions with President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, officials said on Friday.

Along with Muraleedharan, several other foreign dignitaries, including the head of the Commonwealth Patricia Scotland are to attend the main event in the capital, Colombo.

The security has been beefed up in the capital with armed troops manning the most popular junctions in and around Colombo's immediate suburbs.

The trip by Muraleedharan to Colombo comes nearly two weeks after External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar visited Sri Lanka.

Muraleedharan will have bilateral meetings with Sri Lankan President Wickremesinghe and Foreign Minister Sabry, officials here said.

Muraleedharan will also have an interaction with the prominent members of the Indian diaspora.

His two-day visit is a reflection of deeper bilateral engagement between the two nations at a time the island nation is reeling under an economic crisis.

Last month, Sri Lanka thanked India for its generous support of a USD 3.9 billion credit line extended to it last year and the assurances given by New Delhi to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to restructure the country's debt.

Sri Lanka, which is trying to secure a USD 2.9 billion bridge loan from the IMF, was negotiating to get financial assurances from its major creditors -- China, Japan and India, which is the requisite for Colombo to get the bailout package.

During mid-2022 Sri Lanka faced the worst economic crisis since independence which led to months-long public protests leading to a political crisis.

Shortages of essentials due to the forex crisis forced people onto the streets demanding the resignation of the then president Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Last year in April, Sri Lanka declared its first-ever debt default in its history.

The Independence Day celebrations have been criticised by Sri Lanka's Opposition groups who dubbed the rupee 200 million events an extravagance amid the ongoing economic crisis.

The main Opposition has declared they would officially boycott the main Independence day event to be held at the Galle Face promenade, the site of the months-long public protests from April to August last year against the government for mishandling the economic crisis.

In the north and eastern Tamil regions, black flags are to be raised claiming that the Sinhala majority rulers had denied political freedom to the Tamil minority.

Sinhalese, mostly Buddhist, make up nearly 75 per cent of Sri Lanka's 22 million population while Tamils are 15 per cent.

A radical students union has called for a day of protest. A 24-hour continuous sit-in protest is to be staged from 3 pm on Friday at the busy Maradana junction in central Colombo to protest against the celebrations.

The Catholic Church has announced an official boycott of all Independence Day events to protest what they called inaction by the government to hold accountable the culprits behind the devastating 2019 Easter Sunday bombings that killed over 270 people, including 11 Indians.